Big K.R.I.T. Interview
|Label:||Cinematic Music Group / Def Jam|
|Next Project:||K.R.I.T. Wuz Here|
|Twitter:||Big K.R.I.T. on Twitter|
|Website:||Big K.R.I.T.'s Website|
During the years that DJBooth.net has been in operation, we’ve already helped to launch the careers of quite a few up-and-coming rappers who now seem destined to write their names on the pages of history. Hoping to become the next in that illustrious line is Big K.R.I.T., a multi-talented Meridian, Mississippi native (and exclusive freestyle series contributor) with aspirations of taking his place among Southern legends like Outkast and UGK as a musical “King Remembered in Time.”
Released yesterday and available for free streaming and download, DJBooth.net-sponsored street album (and the artist’s Cinematic Music Group debut) K.R.I.T. Wuz Here does just as the title suggests, marking the 23-year-old emcee/beatsmith’s arrival as a major player on the national scene. Produced entirely by the artist himself, the project comes complete with reader-acclaimed leaks “No Wheaties,” “2000 and Beyond,” “They Got Us” and the Devin the Dude-assisted “Moon & Stars,” and includes guest contribution from several of K.R.I.T.‘s CMG labelmates.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Big K.R.I.T. steps into the Booth to discuss the transition from small-town life to the major leagues, how a PlayStation game (along with the guidance of friends) helped him make his entrance into the production game, and the cereal he considers his “Breakfast of Champions.” (No, it isn’t Wheaties).
Listen to the Interview
Big K.R.I.T. Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a native of Meridian, Mississippi who has taken the Booth by storm over the past five months with six highly-rated features and an exclusive DJBooth.net freestyle. Please welcome my man Big K.R.I.T. – how you doin’?
Big K.R.I.T.: Ahh! [imitates cheering] Man, I’m doin’ good, doin’ good.
DJ Booth: Thank you so much for joining me inside the Booth.
Big K.R.I.T.: No doubt. I’m glad to be here, know what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: And I’m glad that you’re glad to be here, so we’re all good. At 23 years old, it’s not that long ago that you were just a kid with some big dreams of making it in the music industry. Has music always been the only career option that you’ve considered, or was there an alternative, growing up, that still might be an interest of yours in the back of your mind today?
Big K.R.I.T.: Nah, it’s music man, pretty much one-hundred percent. I played ball and sh*t, but I feel like I’m too old to be tryin’ to be out there competing. It’s pretty much rappin’ and producin’. I always had a passion and a love for music and the art form and composing it, and it’s really all I saw myself doin’ at 12 or 13. And I’ve been goin’ strong and tryin’ to make this sh*t real, you know?
DJ Booth: You mentioned 12. I read that’s when you actually started rapping. You put together your first mixtape when you were 18, and now here in 2010, at 23, you’re on the verge of releasing the biggest project of your career to date, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Not having heard any of your material from back in the day, ‘cause you haven’t shared that with me, describe the progression of your sound, style and your skills, as both an emcee and a producer.
Big K.R.I.T.: I mean, really just finding my own lane, not trying to be like anybody or sound like anybody or what the industry wants as far as radio records and stuff like that. Really just doin’ me, and prayin’ and hopin that people feel the vibe that I give off. You know, speakin’ my own lingo, reppin’, just things that I know from the perspective of being a Mississippian, that some people might be like, “Well, damn! I never knew that,” about bein’ country or whatever. And even the production is growing musically, trying to make it all intertwine – the music, the cadence, combining dynamics to the record, where it’s not just the same loop over and over again. Really bringing a track to life. You know, it’s not rare that a rapper used to actually be the producer, and in any case I get to make exactly the type of beat I want, and all of it vibe and blend together. It took a while to finally find my voice, and the type of hooks I want, and bein’ able to sing on records sometimes. It’s crazy. I’m just glad that people are really gonna see the progression, if you did hear my music back in the day, to what I’ve got now, it’s crazy.
DJ Booth: It’s interesting that you mention the dynamic of someone who both produces and records himself. One of the biggest complaints that I read from members at our site is that the production work on our featured songs doesn’t always fit the emcee who’s spitting over it, and I guess that makes sense because they got the beat from somebody else. Since you produce almost all of your own material, and you’re not being restricted creatively by some suits at a major label, you’ve never fallen victim to this constructive criticism. So, is it easy crafting beats to suit yourself, or does this process actually make you more picky and indecisive?
Big K.R.I.T.: It’s definitely a picky thing. In my case, I try to make a broad range of beats for myself. Sometimes I’m more critical of my music, so it takes me a week or two weeks to really mix a record down and feel like it’s perfect. Sometimes when you work with other producers, you get a track, you rap on it, and that’s it; with me, I have a lot more time to sit down with the beat and just vibe out, and try to come up with the perfect concept for it. In some cases it’s easy, though. If I wanna make a conscious record, then I know I’m finna make a conscious beat, and I’mma give it this kind of vibe, and I’mma make it this kind of tempo. Most artists don’t get the opportunity to really craft the song. The beat is the base of it all, you know what I’m sayin’? It’s important to really be able to vibe out.
DJ Booth: I couldn’t agree with you more. I read that you actually began producing ‘cause you couldn’t afford to buy beats from local producers, so you figured, “Why not do it myself?”
Big K.R.I.T.: Why not make it myself? Yeah. ‘Cause, it looked easy enough!
DJ Booth: [laughs] Yeah, right!
Big K.R.I.T.: You know, back then FruityLoops was boomin’, and the first thing I actually made beats on was Playstaion. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the MTV Music Generator?
DJ Booth: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Big K.R.I.T.: That sh*t came out, and I was like, “Damn, I can make beats on Playstation for $40? Let’s do it!” ‘Cause people were charging $200, $300 where I was from, and I was like, f*cking 13, 14. I couldn’t pay for that. Boom – I started making beats on MTV Music Generator, we would pre-record ‘em into my dad’s tape recorder, and we’d karaoke that sh*t. And that’s really where it all started.
DJ Booth: Did you have a mentor or any guidance from friends who knew production well, or did you seriously just teach yourself from scratch?
Big K.R.I.T.: When it came to Music Generator, that was me just f*ckin’ off. Like, I’m just trying to figure this out. But when it got to more complex things, like Reason, MPs and stuff like that, I had a dude named Freaky T out in my hometown, that really put me onto a lot of it as far as production was concerned, samplin’ and EQing. And I really just watched what he did, and tried to duplicate an aspect of how to format a record and stuff like that. And I had my partner who had gotten an ADAT machine, Money Black, and he was like, “Hey cuz, I’m reading this book. You need to be around me while I’m learning this, so you can learn it.” So I had people who were mastering just their section of music – a dude that only wanted to mix and a dude that really just made beats, and I’d go over to their cribs and I’d learn from them. Me bein’ a rapper, I’m learnin’ from different sections of the game, and I had the opportunity to have real good teachers.
DJ Booth: Well, you were a good student, because the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.
Big K.R.I.T.: [laughs] Yeah, definitely, definitely.
DJ Booth: [laughs] You mentioned influence, obviously, on the production side, but let’s talk about on the rapping side. In several of your DJBooth features, I described your sound as directly influenced by a few of the greatest Southern rap pioneers ever, Outkast and UGK, and I know that those are both direct inspirations for you. Now, some artists, K.R.I.T., they tell me that their musical influences provided the drive that they needed to pursue their career, while others claim that those influences actually made them realize that they were destined for greatness. Do you fall into one, both, or neither of those categories?
Big K.R.I.T.: Man, wow… I would have to say… both? Bein’ from the South and seein’ people from the South doin’ it, all this is gonna give you the drive to do it, like, “Man, maybe I can do this.” ‘Cause they’re tellin me, “If you work hard enough, you can do what I’m doin’.” That’s not to say that you’ll be on the exact level of them, or you’ll have the same amount of success, but at least be in the same ring, or play in the major [league] or get some kind of notoriety, you know? They definitely encouraged me. I still examine and use them today. Like, I loved the golden era – Outkast, UGK – on a level of just doin’ you. ‘Cause these artists, they didn’t give a f*ck what you think – they did them. And it kind of opened my mind to, like, “If I just be country, stay true to what I believe in and what I like and what I like to rap about, I’ll find a fanbase and they’ll accept me for me and it’ll grow over time.”
DJ Booth: Well, it’s interesting that you said you still listen to their older stuff today, and I think that is the mark or, should I say definition, of good music. ‘Cause if you can listen to it 10, 15, 20 years after it was made, it’s timeless.
Big K.R.I.T.: Oh, it must be. If I throw on Marvin Gaye right now, it’s gonna have the same effect on me that it had when they was playing it. It wasn’t someone who didn’t know what they was talkin’ about telling you “Do this, do that;” we’re just gonna go ahead and jam out, you know?
DJ Booth: Exactly. And that’s apparent to me, because when you decided on the name “K.R.I.T.,” I read that it stands for “King Remembered In Time.” Clearly, you were very aware of the fact that you would like your music to be long-lasting as well as your legacy. Now, did you consciously think about how long that time would be – five years, 50 years – or did you just think, in the end, when all’s said and done-
Big K.R.I.T.: Yeah, [when it’s done]. In the end, when it’s over and the curtains close, they’re gonna respect me and remember me as the king of what I did. If you don’t feel like you’re the best at what you do… you’ve gotta believe in yourself first and foremost.
DJ Booth: K.R.I.T., according to the last census, which now is a decade old, the population of your hometown is only 39 thousand and some change. So, being that you hail from such a small city in the South, has all the hustle and bustle, so to speak, of the industry and what’s going on in your career now, being in major cities like New York, overwhelmed or stressed you out?
Big K.R.I.T.: A little bit. Like I said – you come from our city, where you know everybody. And I’m from a place where the Southern hospitality is real. Like, you’re walking down the street, you don’t know this person, and they’re gonna turn to you and say, “What’s up?” It’s a very friendly environment, in a way. You go to other places, real big cities, and people don’t really speak to each other, they really kind of just do their own thing. Because you’re so much of a stranger that motherf*ckers really can’t trust you. So it was that, and the competition level. There are a certain amount of rappers in my city, and you know them, and you work with them; you go to other places, it’s extremely competitive, so you’ve kind of gotta fight your way to the top. You’ve gotta compete and be willing to take the criticism, and go places you haven’t been before, out of your comfort zone. ‘Cause I’m from, again man, the country.
DJ Booth: It’s like getting dropped in a much bigger fish tank, but making everyone aware in that fish tank that you’re going to continue to swim the way you always swam.
Big K.R.I.T.: Exactly. And make them love what you do at the same time.
DJ Booth: Well, that unwavering attitude will definitely take you places. As you mentioned earlier, the title of the new project that obviously everybody’s excited about, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, from this I assume you mean that with this release, you are officially making your mark.
Big K.R.I.T.: Definitely. And reminding people, letting the folks that passed me over know, “Hey, I’m still around. You remember me!”
DJ Booth: [laughs] But being that you’re so young, do you get the impression that people in your past believe your time has already come and gone?
Big K.R.I.T.: Ah… not really. I guess because I never had the opportunity to have the platform which most artists get, the million-viewer platform, the one song on the radio. I never really had that opportunity, it was all underground, I’m grinding, I’m grinding, and I making noise amongst the people who are in the offices, but not amongst the normal people that just come to your site, DJBooth.net. Like, “Who is this artist?” So now I’m starting to get the real listeners of music, and not so much the business aspect of it all.
DJ Booth: If this project makes the type of impact that I think both you and I know it can make, and are hoping it can make, forecast for me the next seven months. What do you hope to accomplish by the end of 2010?
Big K.R.I.T.: Man… the strongest fanbase you’ve ever seen. With the team behind me, I’m sure it’s going to be lovely, and really bringin’ back that feel that people used to have for music. Like, when you hear it, it’s like, “I’ve just got to listen to it again,” and it does something to you, versus a factory line where you listen to it [and go on] to the next thing. Just bring that whole [feeling] back – the sh*t I miss as far as music is concerned.
DJ Booth: You’re not the only one – we all miss it. Now, we are aware of the fact that you are not a fan of Wheaties, and neither am I.
Big K.R.I.T.: [laughs]
DJ Booth: But since breakfast is undoubtedly the most important meal of the day I assume that that doesn’t stop you from indulging in other options. I’m a fan of oatmeal, raisin toast and maybe a banana. What does Big K.R.I.T. like for breakfast?
Big K.R.I.T.: [laughs] Man, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, cuz! I ain’t gonna lie – that sh*t’s so boomin’! It used to be Cap’n Crunch, but that sh*t will tear the roof of your mouth up!
DJ Booth: Here’s the important question: is that with skim, 1%, 2% or whole milk?
Big K.R.I.T.: [laughs] Two percent, cuz.
DJ Booth: Two percent? You’ve gotta drop it down. Skim or 1%‘s is the healthy choice, come on now.
Big K.R.I.T.: Hey dog, when I go, I see that red top, I know what I’m gettin’. This is the milk for me, and I’ll rock with this.
DJ Booth: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – I understand completely. Give everybody some more information, how they can find out more about your music, your projects, and everything you have coming up.
Big K.R.I.T.: Oh man, May 3rd K.R.I.T. Wuz Here is dropping, it’s hosted by DJ Folk and Wally Sparks, my Cinematic Music Group debut. You can get at me at twitter.com/bigkrit.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Well, I thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth for an interview and, as always, nothing but the best of luck.
Big K.R.I.T.: Man, I appreciate the opportunity.